When it comes to being nervous for an interview, we’ve always believed that being nervous is a good thing; being scared is a whole different story. When you are going into an interview scared, it usually means you are not prepared. Think back to your first college final exams, especially those you prepared for more than others. While you may have felt anxious, the more you prepared, the more confident you typically felt going into those exams.
According to Kim Heitzenrater, Director of Career and Leadership Services at The University of the South, “If you remain cool, calm and collected during an interview, you’ll project an air of confidence that is attractive in a candidate. You’ll give strong, thoughtful answers and ask interesting questions of those you meet. You’ll be able to demonstrate that you’d remain calm when stressful situations arise in the course of your work with them, and you’ll be the person they want on their team.”
So while anxiousness and fear are natural, it is important to overcome them in order to have an effective interview. Here are a few general tips and strategies we recommend for helping manage your interview jitters.
Knowledge is power: the more you know, the more confident you will be. When it comes to preparing for your interview, there are three things you need to know:
- Yourself (e.g., your resume, strengths, weaknesses, goals, personal characteristics, etc.)
- The position description (most interview questions are generated from the job description)
- The organization. Research not only the organization – mission, vision, values, accomplishments, what makes them unique – but also those you will be interviewing with. Using LinkedIn, Facebook, or Google can provide you with individualized information that other candidates may not bring to the table.
Lastly, practice and practice more. Work with your Career Services team to conduct practice interviews where they play the role of the organization, and everything seems like the real thing (except for the end, when they provide feedback and advice). Basically, do your homework: you will be surprised how valuable preparation can be in any interview. For additional interview preparation tips, please check out our Interviewing Guide.
Now that you’ve prepared to the best of your ability, it is essential that you plan ahead for your upcoming interview. The fewer worries you have to deal with the day of the interview, the better. Start by printing off plenty of copies of your application (resume, cover letter, references, etc.) on resume paper well in advance of your interview. If you don’t have a pad-folio, this is a good time to purchase one.
Along with copies of your application materials, we recommend that you also prepare a list of questions for the interviewers. For suggestions on types of questions to ask, visit our Interviewing Guide. We typically recommend bringing 5 to 10 questions, as some may be answered by the interviewers before your interview begins- you always want to have at least 3 go-to questions at the end of your interview.
Next, prepare what you are going to wear the day of your interview. This could include dry-cleaning, ironing, and laying out your attire in advance.
Finally, make sure you map out your travel route for where your interview will take place. Check traffic and weather reports – you want to prepare for anything and everything you could encounter during your commute. Your goal is to try to arrive at least 15 minutes early; nothing will get you more frazzled or anxious than being late. Once you arrive on-site, allow yourself plenty of time to site in your car, collect your thoughts, breathe, relax and become focused.
Think Positively and Confidently
Think of it not as an interview but as a conversation: a conversation between two parties who are trying to assess one another’s compatibility and fit. Believe it or not, they are nervous as well – there is a lot at stake for them in needing to hire the right person.
Another way you can approach the interview positively and confidently is to visualize yourself delivering a great interview. You’ve come a long way through the application process, and the only thing standing in your way is the interview. Think of it like running a marathon: if you’ve run 24 miles, do you throw in the towel with 2.2 miles remaining or do you finish strong? Our advice: finish strong!
Any time you receive an interview, it has been pre-determined that you meet the qualifications for the position. Employers will not waste their time, money and energy interviewing a candidate who is not a good fit. Your resume, skills, experience and accomplishments have done their job: by offering a firm handshake (no wet fish), smiling, and showcasing your preparation, you are on your way to a potential offer.
For those who experience shaky or sweaty hands, we recommend that you fold them and place them in your lap. By sitting up straight and squaring your shoulders, your voice will project much better than if you are hunched over. This will also make you appear confident, even if you are jittery on the inside.
For a trembling voice or butterflies in your stomach, try closing your eyes and taking several deep breaths. Practicing deep and full inhales and exhales will bring more oxygen into the blood (a natural relaxant).
Remember, employers are not seeking perfection; instead, they are looking for someone who is resilient and adaptable. They are also not holding a stopwatch and judging you on delayed responses, or length of response. Make sure you take your time to formulate your thoughts: silence can be an ally. If you are caught off-guard with a question, you don’t have to jump right into a response. Take your time and, if nothing is coming to you, it is okay to ask the interviewer if you can come back to the question.
Fear and excitement can often produce the same responses, but don’t confuse the two. Remember that an interview can be stressful, but it’s also an exciting opportunity.